In the comments following my recent Models of our Pre-Mortal Existence post some readers sensed that I was skeptical of the commonly held notions of what out pre-mortal life was like. Well, I am skeptical. I think the model as presented is not consistent with the whole of scripture or the teaching of Joseph Smith. (I just noticed that some of these things are being discussed over at Splendid Sun even as I post this.) It is not the ingredients I object to, but rather the interpretations of those ingredients and the way they are put together. First I’ll recap the model as I have heard it then I’ll explain why I think it is an inadequate and inaccurate model. Here is what I wrote in that post:
A. The Basics (aka the “My Turn on Earth” model) – This one goes something like this: We (all humankind) were all living in heaven (whatever that means) with our literal spirit parents. (Some take that to mean that we were all born as spiritual babies to spirit mothers, but most never think about it). We were all like little children and we wanted to grow up to be like our Heavenly Parents. So we all got together in a grand family council and our Father proposed a plan to build an earth and send us all down so we could be tested. The idea was to veil our minds so we could show our true colors without remembering our Celestial home. The goal was to get back to that home, but more mature and like our Father. In order to overcome the problems inherent in mortality, though, we needed help. We needed a savior. Two volunteers stepped forward – our parents’ first-born spirit son (Jesus) and another brother of some rank (Lucifer). Lucifer proposed a plan that would compel all to obey and return to heaven and Jesus suggested following the Father’s plan which gave us free agency. A vote was taken and two thirds sided with Jesus and the Father while one third sided with Lucifer. As a result that one third was cast out of heaven and Lucifer became the Devil, Satan, with the one third his angels. So the earth was created and we are all taking our turn on earth to see how we’ll do.
First let me say that the entire point of this post is to show that we really know next to nothing about the details of our pre-mortal life. I’m ok with that. What I’m not ok with is the tendency we have to build all sorts of doctrinal superstructures on the sandy foundation of our current understanding of the pre-mortal life. (This all started with a discussion over at Mormon Metaphysics with a faithful and interesting saint named George who was making various doctrinal arguments based on his view of the pre-mortal life.) The following is not to say that most of the ingredients below are not real and true, but rather that we know very little about these things. Therefore, supporting arguments based on views of our pre-mortal life is a very tenuous position to take unless those assumptions are agreed upon.
ï¿½ Our spirits are co-eternal with God. (We are as “old” as Him)
Joseph made pretty strong statements about this at the end of his ministry (most notably in the King Follet Discourse). Details are anything but clear, but the implications are broad depending on how this idea is applied.
ï¿½ A mortal life (and possibly atonement) by the Father performed previously on another planet
This idea is also inferred in the KFD. This idea is also applied to the NT scriptures where Jesus says he does nothing but what he had seen his Father do already. But exactly what Joseph meant is not agreed upon by all.
ï¿½ The merit program
If there were noble and great ones but we are all eternal, what did some do to merit being designated noble and great? What kind of tests/probations had they passed to be considered such?
Misunderstood or misapplied ingredients:
ï¿½ Permanently living in Heaven/ Our Celestial Home
Where is this doctrine found in scripture? The idea that we were in the presence of the Father can be shown but we seem to take it farther to imply we were permanently there. I see no evidence of this in the revelations.
ï¿½ One grand family council
First, let me note that the term “council in heaven” is not found in our scipture (though it is in the topical guide). It seems that many saints picture this as a great general conference… But where is that idea supported in scripture? When do we assume this council happened? I suspect most believe it happened immediately preceding the creation of this earth though this is also unclear.
ï¿½ Literal spirit children? (Viviparous birth?)
The details of this are anything but clear. Some believe there is a difference between an intelligence and a spirit, others disagree. Some believe there is such a thing as real spirit birth, others disagree. The scriptures are largely silent on the details. In any case, how we can being both eternal and created is a question that is not known to us yet (if it is even possible). I’ll probably write a whole post on this one later. We know we are children of God, but what that means exactly is not fully defined.
ï¿½ We were all like little children (and wanted to grow up)
Were all like little children or just some? Were the noble and great ones that Abraham stood among like little children still to or were they more mature spirits? What accounts for the gradation?
ï¿½ The details of Jesus/Lucifer plan proposals
Again we know next to nothing about this (though the Bible Dictionary has a nice write up on it). The picture I have of a courtroom does not make a lot of sense. There are scriptures related to a war in heaven but again, details are very fuzzy.
ï¿½ How the war fought or the vote taken?
How did we fight this war? Was it really a vote? If so how did we cast our vote — with the raise of a hand or with our feet? Was it verbal or the some of previous choices that constituted the vote? If it is the latter then we are in the process of “voting” every day here.
Please don’t let any of these questions try your faith! I only bring them up because I often sense a certain bravado among the saints based on this idea that we know all about our pre-mortal life. Yes, we know there was a life before this one, but beyond that there is mostly inference, personal opinions, and speculations. There is very little official doctrine on these things. Therefore, in order to have a discussion and base arguments on activities in the pre-mortal world(s) we probably ought to agree on those details first.
So what do you think? Do we know more about some of these things than I have intimated? Do we know less than I have claimed? Feel free to chime in.